International women’s day: When equality is still elusive of equity
It will take another century to disappear the gap between men and women.
This year, while deciding on the theme for the International Women’s Day 2020, we were speculating on the themes that the United Nations has over the years focused on 8th March. One common theme that repeatedly found its spot the focus area of International Women’s Day was that of “equality”.
While delving deep into the history of gender equality, the history dates back to the year 1765 where “The Daughter of Liberty” became the first society of working women.
It is great that the issue of gender equality has improved over the years, 255 years to be accurate and it is again disheartening to know that we will take another century to bridge gender inequality.
However, today when we talk about diversity and inclusion from different lens, which is about diversity in terms of people with different abilities, sexual orientation, ageism, we have a larger issue to fight- inequality at all levels and all forms which individually might take another 100 years to even acknowledge that inequality persist beyond gender.
So what does equality means to people especially at workplace? People Matters spoke to employees from different industries, working in different roles, irrespective of their gender and asked them, “What does workplace equality mean to you? What are the instances when you feel equal at workplace?”
Having the autonomy to share my idea, innovate & experiment. I feel equal at work when I see people getting opportunities based on their potential and not anything else.
Equality to me means that the same behavior will get the same response. So if a man and a woman both make the same suggestion, they will be heard and evaluated in the same way and the suggestion will be valued coming from either of them.
Workplace equality to me means being able to voice my opinion without fear of a backlash. Often our designation paves the way for bias, which limits our involvement in decision-making. An equal workplace must provide an environment where employees can be exactly whom they are without being judged or discriminated against for their choices and belief systems.
The conversation surrounding gender equality, which is seemingly as old as time, has taken a center stage. The conversation surrounding ‘gender equality’ is ongoing and important—but there is something missing.
When we come across the term, “equity,” it typically comes up in the conversation about compensation. While compensation is one component of equitable workplaces, equal pay does not make a workplace equitable.
According to the United Nations educational, Scientific and Cultural organization,
“Gender equality, equality between, men and women, does not mean that women and men have to become the same, but that their rights, responsibilities and opportunities will not depend on whether they were born male or female. Gender equity means fairness of treatment that is different but which is considered equivalent in terms of rights, benefits, obligations, and opportunities.
Equality is basically the end goal; equity is the means to get there, i.e. equality.
However, when we launched SheMatters, with the center them on creating an equitable workplace, we realized most organizations don’t know the difference between equality and equity. In fact, they use the terms interchangeably.
On a fundamental level, equity and equality are both points along a longer continuum of diversity and inclusion. The first step of continuum is diversity.
As we know, organizations need to attract diverse thought and talent, which is usually accompanied by the kind of diversity you can quantify. Once diversity in the workforce has been achieved, the next step on the continuum is inclusion. An inclusive work environment is one, which make employees feel valued through positive reinforcement and clear outcomes.
When all employees are empowered and feel empowered to bring their unique thoughts and ideas to the table, they know they’re being valued equally — that’s equality, the third step along the continuum. If all three of these stages are met, then equity will occur naturally.
Equity is more of a state than a step, and it is hard to strictly define what it looks like since it will be different for every organization. But in general, equity is what happens when all members of a diverse population of employees have equal opportunities and support to succeed and grow.
Taking action: Building an equitable workplace
If your company hosts diversity and inclusion training, that’s a great start, but workplace fairness truly begins with more specific employer initiatives. Consider taking the following actions:
- Establish measurable high-level diversity and inclusion initiatives and create an action plan to achieve them. Consider hiring or designating a point person for this role
- Create Employee Resource Groups that allow employees to connect and share experiences with their coworkers
- Include a salary range on all public job postings
- Ensure company benefits are equitable (For example, Do parents have enough flexibility to reasonably perform their job well?)
- Offer accommodations for employees with disabilities, language barriers, or mental health needs
- Train hiring managers on equitable candidate evaluations, and ensure said managers are diverse in gender and race